Liquid Biopsies in Cancer Diagnosis, Monitoring, and Prognosis

Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2019 Mar;40(3):172-186. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2019 Feb 5.


Liquid biopsies, comprising the noninvasive analysis of circulating tumor-derived material (the 'tumor circulome'), represent an innovative tool in precision oncology to overcome current limitations associated with tissue biopsies. Within the tumor circulome, circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) and circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are the only components the clinical application of which is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Extracellular vesicles (EVs), circulating tumor RNA (ctRNA), and tumor-educated platelets (TEPs) are relatively new tumor circulome constituents with promising potential at each stage of cancer management. Here, we discuss the clinical applications of each element of the tumor circulome and the prevailing factors that currently limit their implementation in clinical practice. We also detail the most recent technological developments in the field, which demonstrate potential in improving the clinical value of liquid biopsies.

Keywords: cell-free DNA; circulating tumor cells; exosomes; liquid biopsy; precision oncology; tumor circulome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Liquid Biopsy / methods*
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Prognosis